UTSA’s Germany remains questionable for next week pending test results

UTSA center Jacob Germany remains questionable for next week’s first full-session, preseason practices pending results of medical tests, Roadrunners coach Steve Henson said Friday.

“Jacob’s just having some precautionary tests,” Henson said. “He got checked out this morning. Hoping to get the doctor to look at the results as soon as possible. Obviously we’d like to have that happen today. But I can’t guarantee it will.

“If not, hopefully (by) Monday morning. We’re as anxious to find out his status as anybody else because we start practice Monday (afternoon). So, that’s really all I have.”

Germany, a 6-foot-11 senior, sat out UTSA practices on Tuesday and Thursday. Henson characterized the setback as an illness, but he didn’t elaborate, saying only that it’s not believed to be Covid-related.

“He’s doing OK,” the coach said. “We just got to run some tests.”

Germany’s health question comes just as the Roadrunners prepare to ramp up preparation for the coming season.

Since the start of the fall semester in late August, players were on an eight-hour per week regimen, mixing weights and court time. Next week, preparation time increases to 20 hours per week.

In the past week, UTSA practiced Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. They were given the day off on Friday.

Henson said he likes the vibe around this year’s team.

“To this point, I’ve loved their focus, their energy, their eagerness to play the right way,” he said. “It’s just been very refereshing. This group likes being around each other. They like spending time together. They like spending time together in the gym.

“It’s a fun group to be around every day.”

As for the overall health of his team, a lot depends on the status of Germany, who led the Roadrunners last year with 15.2 points and 48.8 percent shooting. Also, 7.3 rebounds per game.

Seven-foot center Carlton Linguard, Jr., a transfer from Kansas State, won’t participate in workouts for the time being. The former Stevens High School standout is rehabilitating a knee injury.

Forward Aleu Aleu, knocked out with a knee injury last January during his first season at UTSA, has been one of the bright spots for Henson lately.

Aleu didn’t participate in contact work in the summer, but the multi-skilled 6-foot-8 forward now seems to be rounding into form.

“Aleu had good practices Tuesday and Thursday,” Henson said. “Looked like he’s feeling better. He ran today, so it was good to see him get some conditioning on turf.”

UTSA will have six weeks to prepare for the season. The Roadrunners will play an exhibition on Nov. 2 at home against Schreiner College. They’ll open the regular season at home on Nov. 7 against Trinity.

UTEP’s second-half shooting stops UTSA’s upset bid

Down by 11 at halftime and struggling on offense, the UTEP Miners heated up with seven 3-pointers after intermission and finally subdued the UTSA Roadrunners, 69-64, on Thursday night at the Haskins Center in El Paso.

UTEP, paced in the second half by long-distance shooting from Jorell Saterfield, handed UTSA its fifth straight loss and kept the Roadrunners winless in Conference USA. The Miners have won two in a row and three of their last four.

Dogged by injuries and Covid-19 issues, the Roadrunners played only seven players — six of them on scholarship, plus walk-on forward Isaiah Addo-Ankrah. Division I basketball programs are allowed up to 13 scholarships.

Notable

The Roadrunners, sparked by Addo-Ankrah’s nine points off the bench in 17 minutes, stayed in the game through much of the second half until the Miners took over.

Quotable

“We’re not going to let our guys off the hook,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said on the team’s radio broadcast. “We had enough guys to play, and we had enough guys to win. We just didn’t make enough plays down the stretch. Need to be a little tougher.

“Yeah, there was some fatigue. Some guys had never played big minutes (in college). Especially the young guys who had never done it … Isaiah, for him to go in there in that setting and do what he did, was pretty impressive.”

Germany’s big night

Junior center Jacob Germany led the Roadrunners with 21 points and 10 rebounds. He hit 9 of 18 from the field, including some long jump hooks. Senior guard Darius McNeill added 19 points, 5 rebounds and an assist. Both McNeill and guard Erik Czumbel played all 40 minutes.

Phoenix Ford had 11 points off the bench for the Roadrunners, who shot 63 percent from the field in the first half but only 28 percent after intermission.

For the Miners, Souley Boum scored 22, Saterfield had 18 and Jamal Bieniemy 11 points. Saterfield hit six of the Miners’ 10 three-point shots. Bieniemy also totaled 8 rebounds and 4 assists.

First half

Playing without Jordan Ivy-Curry for the third straight game, the Roadrunners shot 63 percent from the field and rolled to an improbable 38-27 lead before intermission. UTSA hit its first six shots for a 12-3 lead to set the tone.

The Roadrunners also finished strong by hitting its last three before the half. Germany, a 6-foot-11 lefthander, led the way with 14 points on 7 of 8 shooting. McNeill started and scored 10.

On the defensive end, UTSA was just as effective, holding UTEP to 33 percent (10 of 30 afield), with Boum scoring 13 to keep his team in the game.

The Roadrunners started with a lineup that included McNeill and Erik Czumbel at the guards, Lamin Sabally and Lachlan Bofinger at forwards and Germany in the post.

Notable

The UTSA men’s basketball program announced that the following players would not be available for Thursday night’s road game against the UTEP Miners: Aleu Aleu is out with a season-ending injury. Also, Josh Farmer, Jordan Ivy-Curry and Christian Tucker are all in COVID protocols.

Within the past few weeks, the Roadrunners have also lost guard Dhieu Deing, who left the team to turn professional, and power forward Cedrick Alley, Jr., who is academically ineligible. Both are expected to be lost for the season. Deing was the team’s leading scorer and Alley was the leading rebounder.

Records

UTSA 7-12, 0-6
UTEP 10-8, 3-3

Coming up

Sunday — UTEP at UTSA, 3 p.m.
Jan. 27 — FIU at UTSA, 7 p.m.
Jan. 29 — FAU at UTSA, 1 p.m.
Feb. 3 — UTSA at Rice, 7 p.m.
Feb. 5 — UTSA at North Texas, 5 p.m.
Feb. 7 — UTSA at Middle Tennessee, TBD

UTSA routs Dallas Christian and halts a three-game losing streak

Jordan Ivy-Curry. UTSA beat Dallas Christian 101-48 on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jordan Ivy-Curry sank five of UTSA’s 17 three-point baskets Monday in a blowout victory over the Dallas Christian Crusaders. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners needed a game to rediscover their offensive rhythm, and they seized it on Monday night by passing for 21 assists in a 101-48 non-conference victory over the Dallas Christian College Crusaders.

In snapping a troublesome three-game losing streak, the Roadrunners shot 48.7 percent from the field, including 52.9 percent in the second half, to rout the outmanned visitors from the National Christian College Athletic Association.

Only two days ago, the Roadrunners were humbled in a Conference USA game in Alabama.

They lost 87-59 on Saturday to the powerful UAB Blazers. While the Crusaders play at a few levels below the 14 teams in the C-USA, the home game at the Convocation Center still represented a chance for UTSA to work on execution for an offense that has been erratic at best.

Lamin Sabally. UTSA beat Dallas Christian 101-48 on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Freshman Lamin Sabally produced 15 points and six rebounds. Sabally was 4 for 4 from the three-point arc. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“A lot of positives,” Coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast. “A lot things we can take away from it. The 21 assists (were) good. I thought we turned down some pretty good shots for some great shots.

“(In) rebounding (UTSA, 63-28), we kind of expected that (with our size advantage).”

UTSA entered the Dallas Christian game shooting 37.5 percent, including a cool 32 percent over losses to UT Rio Grande Valley, Illinois State and UAB. The Roadrunners responded against the Crusaders by making 19 of 42 afield in the first half, and 18 of 34 down the stretch.

Jordan Ivy-Curry knocked down five 3-point shots as UTSA hit a season-best 17 in 37 attempts from distance for the game.

Ivy-Curry scored 17 points to lead five UTSA players in double figures. Freshman Lamin Sabally scored a season-high 15 points, while Aleu Aleu and Darius McNeill added 13 apiece. Jacob Germany scored 10.

Aleu Aleu. UTSA beat Dallas Christian 101-48 on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Aleu Aleu started for the second straight game and ignited UTSA with two 3-point shots in the first two minutes. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Point guard Christian Tucker led the Roadrunners in assists with six in 24 minutes. Tucker also scored five points and pulled down nine rebounds. Lachlan Bofinger also started and produced a team-high 10 rebounds. Off the bench, 6-foot-9 freshman Josh Farmer had nine points on 4 of 7 shooting and nine boards.

UTSA rolled to a 12-point lead in the opening minutes, bumped it to 43 at the halftime break and increased it to as much as 56 at the end.

While a few players sat out for various reasons, the Roadrunners were looking for any and all players to take advantage of the opportunity to play. Aleu made the most of it, hitting two early threes to get the team going.

“I think I can be the energy guy,” Aleu told broadcasters Andy Everett and Tim Carter on the post-game show. “On defense, come in, guard, get rebounds. (On offense), make wide-open shots. Just kind of that role, whatever is needed.”

First half

The UTSA Roadrunners opened with back-to-back, 3-pointers from Aleu. They went on to hit 12 threes in 24 attempts in building a 55-12 halftime lead.

Darius McNeill. UTSA beat Dallas Christian 101-48 on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Senior Darius McNeill had 13 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists off the bench. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Playing with a decided advantage in size and athleticism, the Roadrunners seized momentum by scoring 12 points in a row at the outset. A few minutes later, it was 20-2, and a dozen minutes into the game, they were still rolling, leading 37-4.

Several Roadrunners contributed in the opening minutes, Sabally with nine points, Ivy-Curry with eight, and Aleu and McNeill with seven each. Sabally was 3-for-3 from three-point range.

The offensive outburst, even against an inferior opponent, was a welcome sight for the Roadrunners who have struggled on offense this season. UTSA came into the game averaging 67 points, while shooting 37.5 percent from the field. The Roadrunners were hitting only 26.1 percent from three-point territory.

Notebook

For Dallas Christian, which plays in the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association, it was the team’s fifth exhibition against an NCAA Division I program.

The Crusaders have been beaten previously by Texas A&M, Tarleton, Northwestern State (La.) and the University of the Incarnate Word. UIW downed Dallas Christian 90-45 on Sunday afternoon in San Antonio.

Late in the first half, McNeill was helped off the court, assisted by a trainer. The senior transfer from SMU returned to play in the second half. UTSA’s Dhieu Deing, Cedrick Alley Jr. and Phoenix Ford did not play.

Records

UTSA 7-7
Dallas Christian 1-4

Coming up

Thursday, 7 p.m. — Southern Miss at UTSA
Saturday, 3 p.m. — Louisiana Tech at UTSA

With C-USA play looming, UTSA is set to get three players back

Starting point guard Jordan Ivy-Curry and reserve center Phoenix Ford are set to re-join team activities Sunday night, and reserve forward Aleu Aleu is expected to return on Monday as the UTSA Roadrunners prepare for the start of the Conference USA schedule later this week.

UTSA coach Steve Henson delivered the news in a telephone interview Sunday afternoon, saying, “We anticipate everyone being ready to go. Aleu has some Covid protocols to finish up (but) I anticipate having him tomorrow. Everyone else should be good to go tonight.”

The Roadrunners (6-6) are set to pay at Middle Tennessee State (9-4) on Thursday and at UAB (10-3) on Saturday. Both are afternoon games.

It’s been an up-and-down ride for the Roadrunners in the pre-conference phase of the schedule. Early on, they were blown out at Oklahoma and then were beaten at home by Division II Texas A&M-Commerce.

But just as they started to play better, winning five of seven in one stretch, Henson learned late in the evening on Dec. 15 that Ivy-Curry and Aleu had been placed in health and safety protocols, both of them dealing with issues related to Covid.

Both were unavailable for the team’s last two games, at home against UT Rio Grande Valley on Dec. 17 and on the road at Illinois State on Dec. 21, both losses. Ford also did not travel for the Illinois State game, as he was dealing with a personal matter.

But he, too, has returned after the birth of his first child on Christmas Eve, said Henson, who gave all of his players the last 3 and 1/2 days off for the holiday break.

After Sunday night’s workout, scheduled to consist of weights, an hour-or-so on the court and film study, the Roadrunners were set to get back into their normal routine starting Monday.

For Ivy-Curry and Aleu, the workouts will be important as they try to strengthen their legs and their bodies after 10 days in isolation.

“Oh, for sure,” Henson said. “That’s always the concern for the whole group (after) 3 and ½ days off. Those guys had a longer break. It’ll be a concern.

“Sometimes there (are) positives with that,” the coach added. “Guys are banged up and bruised up. For Aleu, that was not the case. He was just starting to come into his own and get back into good shape. He certainly didn’t need that kind of setback.

“With Juice, I don’t think it’ll be a big deal for him. I expect him to get right back in there. But the timing of it was unfortunate. There’s never good timing to be shut down in the middle of the season.”

Before the Covid issues hit, the Roadrunners had been on an upswing, winning three out of four, while gradually starting to work some of the kinks out of their offense.

But without Ivy-Curry on the floor, the progress stalled, with UTSA hitting only 25 percent from the field against UTRGV and 37.9 percent against Illinois State.

Teams around the country have been plagued with Covid-related problems, so Henson is trying to take the setback in stride.

“Just like you do, I see games getting canceled and postponed and rescheduled and all that,” Henson said. “Right and left, teams are dropping out. In the (football) bowl games. (Also) in that Christmas (basketball) tournament in Hawaii.

“Of four games to be played in Hawaii on Christmas Day, two of them were shut down, including the championship game. But, (the virus) is here, and everyone’s dealing with it.”

Coming up

Thursday — UTSA at Middle Tennessee State, 4 p.m.
Saturday — UTSA at UAB, 3 p.m.
Jan. 6 — Southern Miss at UTSA, 7 p.m.
Jan. 8 — Louisiana Tech at UTSA, 3 p.m.

Notable

Even at full strength, Henson knows that the Roadrunners will need to improve both offensively and defensively in order to finish in the upper half of the C-USA standings.

“It’s going to get tougher in league play,” he said. “We know that. Our league is really, really good. So we got to keep improving.

“We got to put those last two games behind us. Get back to the things we were focusing on going into the Grand Canyon game, (and in) the Sam Houston game … getting the ball moving more, taking quality shots.

“In the Sam Houston game, they forced us to go make plays, but we did. We liked the direction we were taking heading into those two games. We’ve got to recapture that. Build on that. We’ve got to get better this week. That’s the bottom line.”

UT Rio Grande Valley buries short-handed UTSA, 68-50

Steve Henson. UT Rio Grande Valley beat UTSA 68-50 on Friday, Nov. 17, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA guard Dhieu Deing and coach Steve Henson had a rough night Friday as the Roadrunners lost at home by 18 points. With two UTSA players sidelined in health and safety protocols, UT Rio Grande Valley won 68-50 to snap a five-game losing streak. – Photo by Joe Alexander

With two players sidelined in health and safety protocols, the UTSA Roadrunners experienced a horrible start and an even worse finish to a basketball game played on their home court Friday night.

Objectively speaking, though, the UT Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros had a lot to do with Roadrunners’ misery both early and late.

The Vaqueros held the home team to 3 of 17 shooting in the game’s first eight minutes, and then they hit 57 percent from the field themselves in the second half to claim a 68-50 victory at the UTSA Convocation Center.

UTRGV’s determined play notwithstanding, the Roadrunners clearly missed starting point guard Jordan Ivy-Curry.

Both Ivy-Curry and reserve forward Aleu Aleu were forced to sit out in protocols designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Against slumping UTRGV, the Roadrunners failed to make up for what Ivy-Curry gives them as a scorer, as a defender and as a floor leader.

“We just missed some real, real easy (shots) early in the game, and then forced some things,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the UTSA radio broadcast. “Didn’t get any rhythm.”

After falling behind by 13 points in the first half, the Roadrunners briefly found a spark, surging behind Jacob Germany to pull within one at intermission.

Cedrick Alley Jr. UT Rio Grande Valley beat UTSA 68-50 on Friday, Nov. 17, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Cedrick Alley Jr. came off the bench to produce 15 points and seven rebounds. Alley played 28 minutes despite missing a few practices earlier this week with an illness. – Photo by Joe Alexander

In the second half, they played well early, forging a 34-28 lead at one point. But after that, the Roadrunners just couldn’t hang on against a team intent on breaking a five-game losing streak.

The Vaqueros went on a monster 29-5 run to blow the Roadrunners out. During the streak, the Roadrunners went scoreless for nine agonizing minutes.

Associate head coach Mike Peck told Henson that UTSA went 15 straight possessions without a basket.

“You can be pretty good defensively, and you go 15 straight trips without putting the ball in the hole … at some point, it’s really, really going to stress your defense,” Henson said.

For the Vaqueros, the win was sweet. It was their first victory since Nov. 23 when they registered a 72-67 decision over Cal Fullerton. The Vaqueros had lost five in a row since then, falling in difficult road games at Illinois and at Texas along the way.

Coming into the game, UTSA was just starting to find a rhythm on offense. The Roadrunners had won five of seven games. In their last game, they hit 47 percent of their shots from the field in a five-point, neutral site victory over Sam Houston State.

Against UTRGV, the Roadrunners were held to a chilly 25.7 percent from the field. With the Vaqueros packing their defenders inside to stop the 6-foot-11 Germany, UTSA couldn’t capitalize, making only 2 of 21 from three-point territory.

Records

UTSA 6-5
UT Rio Grande Valley 5-7

Coming up

Tuesday — UTSA at Illinois State, 2 p.m.
Wednesday — Our Lady of the Lake at UTSA, 7 p.m.

Individuals

UTRGV — Forward Marek Nelson produced a team-high 13 points, seven rebounds and two steals. Guard BJ Simmons scored 12 and Xavier Johnson came off the bench to add 11. Both knocked down three, 3-point baskets. Justin Johnson, UTRGV’s leading scorer, was held to four points on 2 of 10 shooting.

UTSA — Center Jacob Germany had 16 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. Cedrick Alley Jr. went for 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Dhieu Deing, UTSA’s leading scorer, had his toughest night of the season with only seven points to break his string of 10 straight games in double figures. Deing was held to 3 of 18 shooting.

Notebook

The UTSA trainer delivered the news to Henson about Ivy-Curry and Aleu late Wednesday night. On Thursday, the two players were not at practice, and Henson acknowledged their status. Henson said he wasn’t sure how long they would be out. UTSA opens Conference USA play on Dec. 30 at Middle Tennessee State.

Jacob Germany. UT Rio Grande Valley beat UTSA 68-50 on Friday, Nov. 17, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany scored 16 points and pulled down nine rebounds. In his last four games, Germany has averaged 16.5 points and 7.8 boards. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Two UTSA basketball players sidelined in COVID protocols

Jordan Ivy-Curry. A&M-Corpus Christi beat UTSA 77-58 on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Sidelined by COVID-19 protocols, high-scoring UTSA guard Jordan Ivy-Curry is not expected to play Friday night when the Roadrunners host UT Rio Grande Valley. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Starting guard Jordan Ivy-Curry and backup forward Aleu Aleu, a promising newcomer, have landed in COVID-19 protocols and are not expected to play for the UTSA Roadrunners when they host the UT Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros Friday night.

UTSA coach Steve Henson didn’t say whether either one had tested positive, only that they were in protocols. But he did say that neither is feeling symptoms. He said he isn’t certain how long the two will be unavailable.

“We got all this news late last night, very late last night,” Henson said following a Thursday afternoon practice. “Don’t know all the details. But, certainly (neither will play) tomorrow.”

Neither attended the team’s practice.

Even though the Roadrunners have won three of four and five of their last seven, they have done so in spite of a stretch of adversity covering most of the past three weeks.

Guard Darius McNeill went down on Nov. 24 with a foot injury and has been out for three straight games nursing a case of plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

Forward Cedrick Alley Jr., one of the team’s hottest shooters of late, battled an illness that caused him to miss most of the team’s practices this week.

Both worked out Thursday and appear to be ready to go for the game against the Vaqueros.

At the same time, the loss of Ivy-Curry and Aleu is troublesome, given that the Roadrunners play three games in the next six days.

“It is what it is,” Henson said. “Juice is obviously a key guy. The role he’s played the last few games, getting almost all the minutes at the point guard spot, I liked the progress he was making in that regard. He was feeling pretty good. I liked what he was doing.”

Ivy-Curry, a sophomore from Houston, has emerged as the team’s second leading scorer. He is averaging 14.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 10 games.

Aleu Aleu. UTSA beat St. Mary's 76-65 in men's basketball on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Aleu Aleu (above) played 22 minutes on Saturday in Houston and had come on strong in recent practices. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Slowed by injuries to start the season, Aleu, a 6-foot-8 native of Africa, has played in only four games, the last four, averaging 10 minutes as he worked his way back.

Last Saturday, he played a season-high 22 minutes in Houston against Sam Houston State, hit his first three-pointer and contributed with an all-around game.

The former Austin High School and Temple College standout had started to come on strong for UTSA in recent practices, as well, showing off a sweet stroke on three-point shots.

“We were going to try to expand his role rather significantly,” Henson said.

Coming up

UT Rio Grande Valley (4-7) at UTSA (6-4), Friday at 7 p.m.

Notebook

The Roadrunners are scheduled to travel on Monday and then play on Tuesday afternoon at Illinois State in Normal, Ill. On Wednesday night, they’re scheduled to play at home against San Antonio-based Our Lady of the Lake University.

After a break for Christmas, they open Conference USA competition on the road the following week. The Roadrunners will play at Middle Tennessee State on Dec. 30 and at UAB on Jan. 1.

Senior Darius McNeill said it’s “very important” for the team to continue playing well in the three non-conference games.

“If we just stick to how coach wants to play, moving the ball around, playing hard on defense, (we’ll be OK),” he said. “You’ve seen us. Everyone’s touching the ball, everybody’s just flowing … We’re playing like a team — like a winning team.”

McNeill says he’s feeling much better after the bout with the plantar fasciitis, his second such bout in two seasons. He said the injury knocked him out of the lineup for “four or five” games last season at SMU.

McNeill returned to workouts on Monday and did a little more on Tuesday. He said his workout on Wednesday was his first “going up and down” in a game-like situation this week.

“When I was scoring and (doing) certain things off my foot, it felt good,” he said. “I was just playing with a clear mind. Mentally, I’m in a very good space.”

Taking better shots, UTSA starts to hit a higher percentage

Dhieu Deing. UTSA beat Lamar 79-73 in men's basketball on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Guard Dhieu Deing leads UTSA in scoring with 17.6 points per game. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners’ offense hasn’t created as many problems for opponents this year as it did last year.

Last year, with Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace on the floor, UTSA’s foes couldn’t slack off without one or the other pulling up and burying a 28 footer. The Roadrunners averaged 78.8 points per game on 44.7 percent shooting.

This year, with Jackson and Wallace having moved on to seek their fortunes in pro ball, the Roadrunners have forged through some uncertain times, hitting on a 39.1 percent clip and averaging 70.2 points.

After a shaky start, some soul searching and extensive work on the practice floor, UTSA nevertheless has started to become more efficient recently. In their last four games, the Roadrunners are averaging 74 points and knocking down 42.4 percent from the field.

Perhaps not coincidentally, they’re 3-1 in that stretch.

“We’re just getting better shots and moving it better,” Roadrunners coach Steve Henson said after Tuesday afternoon’s workout at the Convocation Center. “We’ve had good starts the last two games. We’re making progress.”

Heating up

Here’s a glance at UTSA’s shooting, game by game, in its last four outings, including final score and field goal makes-attempts:

Nov. 24 — UTSA beats Lamar, 79-73. FG: 25-53
Nov. 29 — UTSA beats St. Mary’s, 75-65. FG: 24-59
Dec. 2 — Grand Canyon beats UTSA, 74-71. FG: 25-69
Dec. 11 — UTSA beats Sam Houston State, 78-73. FG 27-57
(UTSA four-game total, field goal makes-attempts, 101-238, for 42.4 percent)

Coming up

Friday, 7 p.m. — UT Rio Grande Valley (4-7) at UTSA (6-4).

Notebook

UTRGV played at home in Edinburg on Tuesday night and lost 70-60 to the Texas Southern Tigers. The Vaqueros have lost five in a row.

After the Roadrunners downed the Bearkats in Houston on Saturday, they traveled back to San Antonio that night, took Sunday as a day off and returned to work Monday with a weight training session, film study and a practice.

On Tuesday morning, they did a community service project, traveling to help the San Antonio Food Bank with a distribution at South San High School.

In an extremely positive sign for the team, senior guard Darius McNeill has returned to practice this week. McNeill had sat out since tweaking his right foot against Lamar on Nov. 24.

Upon his return Monday, he did more than expected and then seemed to be back to his usual speedy self in a two-hour drill Tuesday afternoon. Henson said he’s uncertain whether McNeill will play on Friday.

“He looked pretty good,” the coach said, “better than I anticipated.”

A concern was power forward Cedrick Alley Jr., who has been ill the past few days. Alley did not attend Tuesday’s workout. “He wasn’t feeling well yesterday and was feeling worse today,” the coach said. “Got to get him tested, get him checked out.”

Junior transfer Aleu Aleu, who missed all of the October practices with a quad injury and sat out the first six games of the season, closed the workout with a flourish.

Aleu Aleu is a 6-foot-8 junior guard/forward who comes to the UTSA men's basketball team from Temple Community College. - photo by Joe Alexander

Aleu Aleu, a 6-8 junior, played a season-high 22 minutes Saturday in Houston. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Unofficially, he knocked down at least five in a row from behind the 3-point line to complete his workout.

“He’s getting so much more comfortable,” Henson said.

Aleu, a newcomer, is a 6-foot-8 forward, a finesse-type player who weighs only 180 pounds. He grew up in Africa but later moved into the Austin area and attended junior college in Temple.

He played 22 minutes against Sam Houston State and impressed coaches with a few heady plays. He finished with three points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals.

UTSA’s Deing draws inspiration from his African heritage

Dhieu Deing is a 6-foot-5 guard who comes to the UTSA men's basketball team from Dodge City Kansas Community College. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA newcomer Dhieu Deing seems to thrive in the open court in a fast-paced game. UTSA coaches love his energy. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special report, for The JB Replay

As an American-born son of parents who grew up in northeastern Africa, UTSA forward Dhieu Deing has an almost ever-present smile on his face.

It’s a clear indication that he is grateful for the chance to pursue an NCAA Division I basketball dream.

Dhieu Deing is a 6-foot-5 guard who comes to the UTSA men's basketball team from Dodge City Kansas Community College. - photo by Joe Alexander

Dhieu Deing is a 6-foot-5 guard/forward who comes to UTSA from Dodge City (Kan.) Community College. His family’s roots are in Africa, in South Sudan. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Preparing to play his first season with the Roadrunners, Deing says he thinks virtually every day about how much his parents sacrificed in their lives and how fortunate he is, as a result.

His mother and father, after all, would walk for miles through the Sudan some 25 years ago to flee an armed force determined to take over the area where they lived.

Once, he said, his parents picked up their six-month-old son – Dhieu’s older brother — and fled. They trekked all the way, on a north-bound path, to the nation of Egypt.

“Obviously my childhood wasn’t as crazy as (my mom’s) growing up,” Deing said. “But (my mother and father) came from Africa. They didn’t have any money (when they arrived in America). They didn’t have any clothes. They didn’t know English. There were a lot of things going on.”

Soon after the family arrived in the United States, Dhieu (pronounced dill) was born in Lafayette, La. The family later moved to North Carolina. Deing (pronounced ding) was in fifth grade when his father passed away.

“We lived in a shelter for about four years, five years,” he said. “So, it was a long childhood. I’m just blessed I didn’t have to go through (the experience of) army people coming to my house, trying to kill me and things like that. Trying to force me out of my house.

“My mom tells me stories every day. How she had to walk through fields, from country to country, I can’t even imagine how she went through all that. Every day I wake up and think about the sacrifice she put in for me.”

Deing, a 6-foot-5 guard/forward, evolved from these humble beginnings into an all-state player at High Point (N.C.) Central High School. He played a year in college at Division II South Carolina Aiken and then spent last season in junior college at Dodge City, Kan.

Over the last nine months, Deing has turned heads in the basketball world.
In the spring, he averaged 19.1 points per game at Dodge City, in the Jayhawk Athletic Conference. On top of that, he played in August and September for South Sudan’s national team in the FIBA AfroBasket tournament in Rwanda.

At age 20, he was the youngest player for South Sudan, which has been a country for only 10 years. In South Sudan’s first appearance at AfroBasket, Deing averaged 11.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists. His team finished a surprising seventh out of 16 teams.

“It was a really good opportunity for him,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “He was the youngest guy on his team. His country is one of the youngest countries in the world. So, they haven’t been on that stage before.”

Deing made the 12-man roster for South Sudan during a tryout camp held in Kigali, Rwanda, the nation’s capital city. He said about 25 players reported for the camp, and the competition to make the team was intense.

Adding to the pressure of the tryouts, for Deing, were the elements. The town of Kigali sits in a hilly region, at more than 4,100 feet above sea level.

“The altitude in Africa is way crazy … (camp) was going on for two or three days, and I’m contemplating whether I’m going to make the team,” he said. “People are like, ‘What’s going on?’ We were real tired. But once I adjusted, it was all right, from there.”

In South Sudan’s 88-86 victory over Uganda, Deing came off the bench to hit 7 of 15 shots from the floor. He scored 22 points, earning the praise of coach Royal Ivey.

“He can play,” Ivey said after the game. “He put on a show today for the world to see, that he is going to be around on this national team for a long time.” Added Uganda coach George Galanopoulos, “No. 6, he is a hell of a player, to be honest. He made some tough shots.”

Henson applauded the efforts of the South Sudanese team, which was organized by former NBA player Luol Deng.

“The expectations from the outside, I don’t think were very high for them,” Henson said. “I think they showed some people (what they could do). They overachieved and did some things that haven’t been done.

“I think as a group they felt good about it, and (Deing) certainly had a couple of really good games. He got a lot of people’s attention over there.”

Henson said Deing has had a good camp with the Roadrunners.

“He’s one of those guys, when you’re talking about playing fast, he’s at his best when it gets going up and down,” the coach said. “He’s at his best when we’re in the open court. He makes plays. Sees the floor pretty well. Just so energetic.

“You can see that. On the heart-rate monitors, he’s got the highest numbers every single day. That’s because he’s flying around.

“First few practices, we weren’t sure why his numbers were so high. It’s just, he gets from Point A to Point B and never stops moving. Offensively. Defensively.”

UTSA’s African connection this season doesn’t stop with Deing. His cousin is Aleu Aleu, a 6-8 forward who was born in Kenya. Aleu moved to the United States, attended high school in Austin and then moved on to Temple College.

Aleu Aleu is a 6-foot-8 junior guard/forward who comes to the UTSA men's basketball team from Temple Community College. - photo by Joe Alexander

Aleu Aleu, a 6-8 junior, is a newcomer out of Temple College. Aleu, who has been limited in workouts because of a leg injury, is from Kenya. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Both committed on the same day last year.

“Me and my cousin, Aleu, we decided, this is the perfect spot,” Deing said. “Coach Henson brought me and Aleu in. We just thought, we’re going to have to do this.”

Coaches are hopeful that Aleu will become a contributor in time, but, thus far, he has been limited to light workouts while rehabilitating an injured quad. Deing says he thinks Aleu will return to workouts soon.

“In about two weeks he’ll be back,” Deing said. “During the season, or, midseason, he’ll be 100 percent.”

Deing has had his ups and downs in UTSA practices. One day last week, he started workouts by making a couple of turnovers and then briefly hanging his head.

Later in the workout, he picked up the intensity and hit two 3-pointers, one of them from the corner as the clock was winding down.

“I’m still learning myself,” Deing said. “I’m still learning my game. I just turned 20 years old. I’m still trying to learn … what I can do to fix my game, trying to get to the next play (and) not just put my head down. Little things like that. That’s me.

“Sometimes I’m like that. I’m human. I make mistakes. I’m just trying to come back and fight better.”

Deing is a competitor who says he is inspired in basketball by Deng, the former All-American at Duke University who runs camps in America for South Sudanese athletes.

He also admires his mother, who works long shifts for a clothing manufacturer in North Carolina.

Long ago, she sacrificed for the family in the face of extreme adversity.

“That’s why I talk to her every day,” Deing said.

What is she like?

“She’s a sweet, sweet, sweet lady,” Deing said. “To me, she’s strict. But to everyone, she’s this loving person. I love my mom. I really don’t know how to explain it. She’s just like, always smiling. Never a dull moment. Always got confidence in me, even when I don’t have confidence in myself.

“She knows that I’m going to be doing something like Lu (Deng) one day. Giving back to the young kids like me. Wanting to do something big.”